Architecture has always been a unique, complex field that combines multiple practices to achieve something that advertently changes the world. Architectural design is about creating spaces by understanding the functions, working, necessities and overall aspects of the space and its whole. Charles Eames correctly stated, “Recognising the need is the primary condition for design.” As architects, we can critically analyse anything we see and find. In an ever-changing lifestyle and technology, it is important to understand that everything we use in our lives has been adjusted to keep up with this change. Product design is one of the branches of architecture that has been highly influenced by this. The design industry is moving towards sustainability and co-existence with nature, and as designers, we are obliged to consciously design and create the environment around us which constitutes the products that we use. Product design is by itself a complex field that includes furniture design, fashion design, automobile design, digital products, etc. Every product is designed as a response to a project or specifications. In simple terms, it is a small-scale version of architectural design. Thus, studying product design makes architectural design better. To understand this, let us first establish the meaning of product design.
What is product design?
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs.
Product design or product architecture is a direct response to the betterment of lifestyle by understanding the users’ interaction with a product and identifying the problems within to create a product that achieves the designer’s goal. It is mainly focused on creating problem-solving designs. Design thinking is the key element in product design. As architecture students, we have been trained to critically analyse and experiment by considering the technical aspects and adding our expressions to them. This has enabled us to look past the built environment as functional spaces and look at them from a whole new perspective. Product design is all about innovation and business. As architects, we can integrate design in any design-related field. Product design integrates the following steps.
- Identifying the issues or necessities
- Empathizing with the users
- Defining the design intents and requirements
- Creating physical prototypes and testing them
- Evolving the final design to create a unique product
These steps are similar to what we use in creating an architectural design. Whenever we design a space, we give importance to the smaller details. Right from the door handles and hinges to the type of bricks and mortar used. The quality of an architectural design is measured by the amount of design detailing done to the space. For instance, when we design a room, we detail the blockwork and the furniture that goes with the space. Thus product design makes up one-half of the architectural design of a space.
Architectural design + Product design
As architects, we have several skills which, if combined with product design, can help us master the field of architecture. We have a basic understanding of the engineering and technical aspects of the mechanisms and materials used, which helps us design efficient and sustainable products. For every design, we need to understand the background, evolution, types, psychological aspects, etc., by researching and asking questions to the people using the existing design to understand the possibilities and factors that go into designing a space or a product which is the first step that we do in architectural design. Besides that, we can analyse the users and understand their needs and issues faced, which we generally do as mapping or context analysis in architectural design. As architects, we make multiple iterations and concept models using different materials and abstractions to explore new ideas and concepts by combining them with our problem-solving skills. This helps us understand the working and feasibility of the product. The most common skill acquired in architectural design is the ability to visually present our ideas which are easily understandable by anyone. Software skills help us to produce working drawings of the products we design; however, complicated it may be, even parametric designs can be done using the unique set of software skills gained as an architect. Most importantly, it is the combination of communication skills, time management and teamwork spirit acquired by the architects during the submission deadline that helps them excel in this field. All the skills acquired by an architect, when combined with the knowledge gained by studying product design, makes an architect well equipped and also open up different career options such as design research, art direction, desktop publishing, colour technologist, exhibition designer, furniture designer, etc. But most importantly, it is the combined knowledge of architectural design and product design that can redefine the architectural field and make the world a better place to live in.There are a few architects that have combined their knowledge in the architectural field along with the knowledge gained by studying product design.
Alvar Aalto is one of the most famous Finnish architects started his practice as an architect and later founded a furniture company. Using his knowledge gained as an architect, he has designed several interior products which range from glassware to furniture. He has carefully designed the furniture in his sanatorium project by understanding the usage and needs. After careful analysis, he used wooden laminates for the furniture so that the patients who will be using them for a long time can feel warm and comfortable.
Using his knowledge of contemporary architecture, Daniel Libeskind has redefined the field of product design by creating products that are up to date with this architectural era and can be used efficiently.
Of course, there is no introduction needed for this exemplary architect, commonly referred to as the “Queen of curves” has redefined the field of architecture and product design. With her futuristic perspective, she has changed the way we look at furniture and has paved the way for other budding architects to create more interesting, efficient and sustainable products for the future.
- Title: 7 Transferable Skills from Architecture to Product Design. Available at: https://uxdesign.cc/7-transferable-skills-from-architecture-to-product-design-27ebe78fdc27. Accessed date: 19/06/2022